The Howling (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Howling1981

The Howling (1981)




Critic Consensus: The Howling packs enough laughs into its lycanthropic carnage to distinguish it from other werewolf entries, with impressive visual effects adding some bite.

The Howling Photos

Movie Info

This groundbreaking, darkly comic horror film from director Joe Dante changed the look and feel of werewolf movies in ways light-years distant from Universal's horror classic The Wolf Man. The story begins with television reporter/anchor Karen White (Dee Wallace) taking part in a dangerous police operation intended to trap psychopath Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). When confronted by Eddie face to face, she witnesses something horrifying enough to trigger selective amnesia. Plagued by a series of violent nightmares, Karen decides to admit herself to a posh recovery resort known only as "The Colony," run by her eccentric New Age therapist, Dr. Waggner (Patrick MacNee), and brings along her husband, Bill (Christopher Stone), for support. The night after they arrive, Karen and Bill are unnerved by eerie howling in the woods. Back in the city, Karen's co-workers Chris (Dennis Dugan) and Terry (Belinda Balaski) have been investigating Eddie's background after discovering that his body has disappeared from the morgue. Sifting through Eddie's possessions, they find a strange collection of artwork depicting wolf-like creatures, and decide to consult with Walter Paisley (Dick Miller, of course), the owner of an occult bookshop, on werewolf lore. Though he claims not to believe in the stuff he's selling, Paisley nevertheless convinces Chris to purchase a handful of silver bullets...just in case. Back at the colony, Dr. Waggner has organized a hunting party after hearing Karen's account of the nocturnal howling, but the men find nothing but a rabbit, which Bill is told to bring to the cabin of the sultry Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks) to prepare for dinner. After resisting Marsha's less-than-subtle sexual overtures, Bill is attacked by a wolf while returning to his cabin. The following moonlit night, the sleepless Bill wanders outside to find Marsha waiting and the two make love by the campfire, their bodies undergoing a frightening transformation. Just as Karen is beginning to suspect that her husband is hiding a secret far more threatening than marital infidelity, Chris and Terry have come to realize -- too late, in Terry's case -- that Eddie Quist is not only still alive, but not quite human...and he knows he's being followed. Chris arrives at the colony too late to save Terry, but manages to find Karen just as the colony's residents -- all of whom are werewolves, including Dr. Waggner -- are assembling to decide her fate. Dante fills his film with heartfelt homages to The Wolf Man and other classic horror movies, as well as a few clever visual puns and in-jokes from his tenure with Roger Corman, but never strays from the path to genuine horror, particularly when Rob Bottin's chilling monsters are onscreen.

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Dee Wallace
as Karen White
Patrick Macnee
as Dr. George Waggner
Christopher Stone
as R. William "Bill" Neill
Kevin McCarthy
as Fred Francis
Belinda Balaski
as Terry Fisher
John Carradine
as Erle Kenton
Slim Pickens
as Sam Newfield
Dick Miller
as Walter Paisley
Noble Willingham
as Charlie Barton
James Murtaugh
as Jerry Warren
Jim McKrell
as Lew Landers
Kenneth Tobey
as Older Cop
Don McLeod
as T.C. Quist
Steve Nevil
as Young Cop
Herb Braha
as Porno Cashier
Joe Bratcher
as Radio Man
Roger Corman
as Man in Phone Booth (uncredited)
Chico Martinez
as Man on Street
Wendell Wright
as Man at Bar
Bruce Barbour
as Stunt Player
Marneen Fields
as Stunt Player
John Moio
as Stunt Player
Forrest J Ackerman
as Bookstore Customer (Uncredited)
John Sayles
as Morgue Attendant (Uncredited)
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News & Interviews for The Howling

Critic Reviews for The Howling

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (1)

Ridiculous -- yes. Comical at times -- yes.

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

The monster movie is back!

May 27, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Dante manages to overcome his limitations to some degree, but the film itself never quite leaves the middle of the road.

August 6, 2019 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

The Howling may be 35 years old, but age is just a number. Insight is eternal.

August 5, 2019 | Full Review…

Essential viewing for anyone with a serious interest in the history of the genre.

October 12, 2017 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…

The Howling is Network meets The Island of Dr Moreau, a treatise on nature versus nurture that isn't afraid to poke fun at its practitioners, and while it's not as entertaining as American Werewolf, in the final reckoning it is in many ways ... superior.

September 25, 2017 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Howling

The makeup and visual effects are awesome, especially in a major shape-shifting transformation scene close to the end, while the climax is effectively tense to make the film worth it, but even so the script is rather weak, uneven and can be quite silly and laughable sometimes.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

In tandem with 'An American Werewolf in London', the transformation sequence in 'The Howling' is not quite as painstakingly excruciating and terrifying but it's within the proximity of impressive special effects from Rob Bottin. The chest inflates, the snout protrudes and the skin effervesces with hair. However, the end result is a shaggy muskrat that is more mangy and unkempt than goosebump-inducing. Such is the case for most of 'The Howling', a kitschy, obnoxiously winking B-picture that attempts to spoof self-help gurus but the satire is hokily ill-advised with this dross. A female werewolf in the newsroom squelches tensile-wire tension because the prosthetic is insufferably adorable and sublethal. Likewise the reaction shots from the viewing publics (a nuzzling couple, a Spanish cashier, etc.) are ridiculously tongue-in-cheek and plagiarized directly from a Zucker Bros. farce. Also I apologize for my lack of sophistication but I've never been an acolyte of Harryhausen stop-motion animation and a few frames of baying wolves is truly atrocious.

Cory Taylor
Cory Taylor

Super Reviewer


Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

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